Officers from Bedford Borough Council’s Trading Standards and Environmental Health Teams, supported by Bedfordshire Police, carried out an operation investigating the sale and supply of illicit tobacco focusing upon several suspected shops in the Midland Road area of Bedford.
Large quantities of illicit tobacco were found stored in two vehicles associated to the premises, and £4,500 seized from the premises, with three individuals also being arrested as part of the operation.
‘Illicit tobacco’ describes counterfeit or ‘smuggled’ foreign tobacco upon which the appropriate duties and taxes have not been paid, and it usually does not comply with UK legislation around packaging. Counterfeit cigarettes are particularly dangerous as the ingredients used come from unknown sources and have been found, in many cases, to contain non-tobacco vegetable matter.
The three individuals arrested during the operation were later released while further investigations are conducted with a view to further enforcement action by Bedford Borough Council.
Cllr Colleen Atkins, Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Regulatory Services, said, “This successful operation that resulted in 50,000 illicit cigarettes being confiscated is an excellent example of ongoing partnership and multi-agency working.
“We are particularly pleased to take these potentially non duty paid and possibly dangerous cigarettes off the streets, protecting residents and supporting legitimate businesses.
“Investigations continue to progress and we hope that those responsible for the sale and supply of these goods will be bought to account.”
Bedfordshire Police’s Community Safety Sergeant said, “Far from being a victimless crime, the illegal tobacco trade makes it easier for children to start smoking, takes advantage of cash-strapped families, and helps fund organised crime.
“Shops selling cheap, illegal tobacco are more likely to be selling other things illegally, such as drugs, fake branded goods and alcohol, exposing the young people of our communities to more dangers.
“We work closely with the council to take a robust stance with any premise that breaks the law. We are pleased to have assisted in taking such vast quantities of potentially dangerous products off our streets.”